Monday, September 01, 2008

League of the Week: Italy / Serie A

By way of a complement to our weekly look at German football called Bundesbag, we're going to be regularly updating you on the other leagues vying for your attention around Europe and indeed the world at large.

This week, we're checking out the first weekend of action in Serie A, and we begin with reigning champions Inter who were playing away to Sampdoria on Saturday. It was Jose Mourinho's first league match at the helm of the Nerrazzurri and it looked for all the world as though he'd be on his way to a winning start when Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished off a one-two with Brazilian midfielder Mancini to score in the 33rd minute.

But Mourinho's injury-wracked Inter side capitulated in the 68th minute when Daniele Franceschini finished off a smart move to grab an equaliser and the game ended 1-1.

Though Inter may have felt frustrated at not picking up all three points, they'll be grateful not to have suffered the same fate as their close rivals Milan who were beaten 2-1 at home by newly-promoted Bologna.

Despite the appearance of new boys Flamini, Zambrotta and Ronaldinho as well as the returning Shevchenko, it was the 2007-08 Serie B runners-up that took the lead through Marco di Vaio after 18 minutes. Yet Ronaldinho was not to be overshadowed and it was he that crossed the ball for Ambrosini to head home just before half time.

The Brazilian continued to have a major impact on the game, setting up several unconverted chances for his team-mates but it was Bologna who found the breakthrough eleven minutes from the end thanks to a tremendous 25-yard strike from Francesco Valiani.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti put the result down to bad luck and didn't seem unduly bothered about his team's fortunes in the coming weeks, saying: "I'm optimistic, we were unlucky... We could have been more compact and together but from a physical perspective we couldn't have done any more than that."

Elsewhere, 2007/08 runners-up Roma had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to Napoli. Alberto Aquilani put the home side ahead after half an hour and Mirko Vucinic should have made it 2-0 at the end of the first half when he missed an easy chance that was saved by Gennaro Iezzo.

Roma, who were without Totti and Perrotta through injury, continued to pile on the pressure in the second half, but the visitors had upped their game too. On 55 minutes, Slovakian Marek Hamsik finished off a goalmouth scramble following a corner to equalise just a minute after Napoli had Fabiano Santacroce sent off for a second bookable offence. Roma, however, were unable to score from any of their remaining attacks on the opposing goal and the game ended 1-1.

There were differing fortunes for the two remaining promoted teams that came up with Bologna. Serie B champions Chievo started well with a 2-1 home win over a Reggina side that only narrowly avoided relegation last season, while Lecce suffered a heavy 3-0 loss on their travels to Torino. Catania were another team that only just avoided the drop last time around, but they began their new campaign well with a 1-0 victory over Genoa.

Juventus caught the eye last year, finishing third and qualifying for the Champions League via the qualifiers, but they struggled to beat Fiorentina who finished last season just one place below them in the table and finished their game yesterday afternoon with only ten men.

Claudio Ranieri's black-and-whites were without David Trezeguet, Giorgio Chiellini, Cristiano Zanetti and Momo Sissoko to name but four, yet they opened the scoring through a 39th minute tap-in by Pavel Nedved despite some early pressure by the visitors.

Fiorentina looked sloppy for a while and looked the more inferior side, but they soon turned things around and had Juve on the back foot for much of the game. They had to wait, however, until 70 seconds from the end for an equaliser which came from some skilful play by Alberto Gilardino. It was disappointing for the home fans, but they, like their counterparts look set to have plenty to cheer about during the remainder of the season both at home and in Europe.

The top scorers this weekend were Lazio, 4-1 winners away to Cagliari. Two of their goals came from Argentinean striker Mauro Zarate and all four came in the last half an hour after fellow Argentine JoaquĆ­n Larrivey had put the home side 1-0 up after 32 minutes.

In other news from this weekend's games, Atalanta picked up a 1-0 over Siena while Udinese captain Antonio Di Natale scored two of his side's goals in a 3-1 win at home to Palermo.

That means Lazio lead the table on goals scored after one game ahead of Torino in second place. Udinese and Bologna lead the chasing pack while Lecce suffer the indignity of lying bottom, below Cagliari (19th) and Palermo (18th).


Anonymous said...

Noticed a small error: Mutu doesn't play for the Bianconeri but for Fiorentina.

Chris O said...

Thanks for pointing that out, RakiBuzzaman. Adrian Mutu was certainly missing for Fiorentina, but not Juventus. That's now been corrected... thanks again!


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